What does a 38-year-old former UFC champion do to stay healthy now that he’s retired from the Octagon? “I get prostate exams all the time,” jokes Forrest Griffin. “I don’t need ’em. But I get ’em as often as possible to be on the safe side.”
Following a seven-year mixed martial arts career in the UFC, Griffin remains with the company as vice president of athlete development at the UFC Performance Institute. “It’s a 30,000-square-foot training facility designed for UFC fighters,” Griffin says. “We have an octagon, boxing ring—literally everything you need.”
Found inside the UFC’s new headquarters in the southwest Valley, the Performance Institute also provides a new level of education for fighters on how to improve their skills, extend their careers and take care of their bodies. It’s a resource that Griffin says would have been valuable during his time as an active competitor.
UFC is very serious about its drug testing. Is that a big part of the education program at the Performance Institute?
Of course. The UFC has a partnership with USADA [the United States Anti-Doping Agency], an independent third party that tests Olympic athletes. UFC athletes are involved in the most stringent drug testing program in the world. The UFC wants guys and gals to be healthier, make weight easier, have longer careers and be able to fight as long as they want to fight.
There have been cases where a fighter will test positive and claim a legal supplement was tainted. That’s happened with Jon Jones more than once now.
You’d be surprised at how much shit is on the market. Some of the stuff I took over the counter or even from GNC probably would have made me pop positive on these [new] tests. A lot of the excuses you’ve heard about—“Oh, it was a tainted supplement”—that’s actually been proven correct by the double-testing USADA does.
What’s your take on the current Jon Jones situation? [At press time, Jones remains under investigation for a positive drug test that, if confirmed, could leave him suspended from competition and stripped of the light heavyweight championship title.]
We have the best testing and regulatory procedures in place. Let’s let them play out. Let’s test everything. Let’s wait until there’s a conclusion before we try to make one. I know Jon Jones pretty well. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves because everybody thinks his confidence comes from his physical abilities—his reach, his quickness and having a great chin. A lot of his confidence comes from him knowing he can’t be broken. He always fights above himself. He’s a competitor. He’s got no quit in him.
It sounds like you’re keeping an open mind.
I would hate to lose a guy who’s that popular for two years [if suspended].
What’s the key to longevity in MMA?
One of the things we work on at the Performance Institute is teaching smarter ways to train—with more intelligent volume. I don’t know if you ever read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, but the horse follows a motto of, “when in doubt, work harder.” That used to be my motto. The phrase “work smarter, not harder” is kind of tacky, but there’s something to be said about it.
Any lingering health issues leftover from your time in the octagon?
My knee doesn’t agree with running and my shoulders are garbage from years of pummeling and clinch wrestling. This business of using your body leaves everybody banged up no matter what sport you play.
Do you ever feel you have one more fight in you?
No, but I miss the training. I miss that sense of purpose.
Your last fight was a victory over Tito Ortiz. Was wrapping up the trilogy with him a good way to go out?
No. Not at all. I was scheduled to fight [Phil Davis] and three weeks before, I blew my knee out. There were a lot of fights I wanted that I didn’t get. I pulled out of two of my last four fights.
Any dream opponents who never worked out?
The best fight would’ve been me in my prime against Wanderlei Silva. He’s a guy I looked up to. I liked his fighting style. He was always exciting to watch.
How would you compare your diet today to when you were in the octagon?
I just eat less. When you go from working out 20 hours a week to eight hours a week, you adjust your calories. I would have a couple cheat meals [after a fight], but within a week of competition, I was back to eating like a professional athlete. My wife used to make a post-fight lasagna and carrot cake for me. It’s funny: the lasagna was actually made with vegetables in place of pasta, and that was one of my favorite cheat foods.
What do pro athletes know that the average person might not think about when it comes to maintaining health?
Just use your body. I had some friends who retired from the NFL, and one piece of advice they gave me is to never stop moving. As you get older, if you stop moving, it just gets harder and harder to start again. A body at rest remains at rest. A body in motion tends to remain in motion. You need to keep moving. Do something every day.